There has been lots of apologizing lately.
At RIT, President Munson apologized in advance for racist photos that were published in RIT's yearbook in the 1970s and strongly affirmed that the institution does not condone that behavior.
Georgetown University revoked the honorary degree of disgraced former Cardinal Theodore McCarrick, a first action of this kind of the school, in light of his allegations of sexual abuse.
Virginia governor Ralph Northam and attorney general Mark Herring were "deeply sorry" for having dressed in blackface, while lieutenant governor Justin Fairfax resigned due to sexual assault allegations.
Then there's a substantial population of Americans that want to see Confederate statues removed, some already and some not.
How do institutions handle historical events and associations with the past that do not reflect the values of the present day?
Georgetown University and RIT have done the following:
(1) Acknowledged the problem, issued public apology, and offered reparations. For example, President Munson sent a strongly worded email regarding the issue, apologizing for it, affirming zero tolerance for that sort of behavior today.
(2) Removed any associations with the offender or the offending action. For example, Georgetown University renamed Mulledy and McSherry Hall (former priests and slave-traders) to Hawkins and Becraft Halls (the first enslaved person in the sale document of 1838 and free woman of color who established one of the first school for black girls in DC).
(3) Fostered continuing efforts and dialogue. RIT hosts open forum discussions called "Gray Matter" to discuss relevant issues in the Interfaith Center. Georgetown University founded a working group oriented on racial justice called "Slavery, Memory, and Reconciliation," that has created initiatives such as hiring new faculty to found an Institute for the Study of Racial Justice, continues to research the history of slavery from its archives, seeks out the descendants of former slaves to offer them scholarships to study at Georgetown, and much more.
I am proud to be affiliated with Georgetown University and RIT. I don't see taking down Confederate statues or renaming buildings as an erasure of history. We don't deny our history if we simply place them in a museum or research institution. Rather, a sincere apology followed by concrete action to make reparations is the best course of action, one that not only institutions as a whole could do better to follow, but individuals as well.